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tv   Nightline  ABC  July 20, 2017 12:37am-1:07am PDT

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this is "nightline." >> tonight breaking news. long-time republican senator and one-time presidential nominee john mccain diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. the latest on his condition and reaction from the president. plus, gay purge? a rising tide of anti-gay hate in putin's russia. reports of brutal attacks, vigilante violence. but now in the southern republic of chechnya, said to be reaching horrifying new heights. >> they electrocuted me. >> citizens forced into hiding, fleeing an alleged government campaign of brutality. the strong man ruler's shocking response to outcry over human rights abuses. and free o.j.? the long-awaited decision tomorrow. o.j. simpson up for parole after
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nine years behind bars for armed robbery. could he go free? we're with a juror from his original murder trial. what he thinks led to that verdict. but first the "nightline" five. verdict. first the "nightline" five. number 1 in just 60 seconds.
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good evening. thanks for joining us. tonight we begin with breaking news. former republican presidential nominee and long time senator john mccain of arizona has been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. a glioblastoma. mccain's office releasing a statement detailing the diagnosis after the senator had surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye. his office said the 80-year-old senator will be reviewing treatment options with his family, including a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. the white house releasing a statement tonight saying the president and his wife melania send their thoughts and prayers to senator mccain, cindy, and their entire family, get well soon. former presidents barack obama and bill clinton tweeting their support, joining a chorus of well wishes and prayer for the american war hero. mccain became the gop's presidential nominee in 2008 when he and running mate sarah palin lost to barack obama. he's been a senator since 1987, where he's long been known as a maverick willing to reach across
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the aisle in order to get the job done. mccain was a u.s. navy captain in vietnam where he was captured, tortured and held in harsh conditions as a prisoner of war for five years. his daughter meagan issuing a statement tonight asking for our prayers saying "cancer may afflict him in many ways but it will not make him surrender. he is a warrior at dusk, one of the greatest americans of our age." we turn to a story causing global outrage out of the russian republic of chechnya, where the gay community has long been victim to vigilante violence and persecution. but now human rights groups say that the repressive government is behind a series of systematic campaigns of hate. hundreds have reportedly been rounded up and tortured, some even killed. abc's terry moran takes us to russia's capital, moscow, where he meets with survivors who say they fled for their lives. >> reporter: the kremlin, the seat of power in vladimir putin's russia. but we are headed to the outskirts of this city and
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keeping a low profile. >> the person we're about to meet is taking a risk doing this interview. >> reporter: we're on our way to a secret safe house. >> we don't know where we're going. >> reporter: to meet two men who say they've been forced into hiding, their lives in danger simply because they're gay. this is what's happening in russia. these disturbing images collected by human rights watch showing men allegedly being choked, beaten, violated, targeted allegedly because of their sexuality. in the past few years, bigotry has been on the rise. and repressive government policies have fueled the hatred. but it is in southern russia, in chechnya, a semi autonomous republic where human rights group say vigilante hate has evolved into something far worse. a coordinated government campaign to round up and
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eliminate gay men. a mass persecution. here in that moscow safe house we're about to meet two of the men who say they are survivors. they tell us they're so afraid, even here, they've asked that we obscure their faces and change their voices. >> were you happy? in grozny. >> translator: because they started rounding up homosexuals. and it was getting to a new level. >> when you say they were rounding up and arresting gay people, who is they? >> translator: the authorities. militias. >> reporter: this man, we'll call him danil, says he is no stranger to discrimination and violence. he says as a gay man in chechnya he could take the risk of dating very rarely. >> we would meet in public places so that in case of danger we could run away or ask for help. >> reporter: the threat of being exposed then blackmailed or baent always present.
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he tells us of one terrifying setup. >> we met three times before. he came out to meet me. i gave him my hand to say hi and then i saw three men. they dragged me into the apartment. someone was holding me. someone was punching me. i started to resist and i ran down stairs. >> reporter: lgbting activists say here in conservative chechnya islam takes the harshest view of homosexuality. danil tells us he heard more and more of his acquaintances were disappearing. stories of abductions like the one allegedly shown here in this cell phone video obtained by cnn. he says it was a disturbing story of one friend's alleged arrest that forced him to make a decision. >> translator: he was taken out in handcuffs, forced into a car trunk and taken away. the same day i quit work, packed my stuff. everything i could carry. and left grozny. >> reporter: there's another man in this safe house hiding behind this door. he won't even come into the room. we'll call him dimitri. he says what happened to him was far worse. he says he was detained for more than a week, then starved and brutally tortured.
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>> translator: they split my eye, my lip, broke my ribs. they electrocuted me. the shock makes you want to jump to the ceiling. i heard others scream and confess all sorts of things that weren't even true just to make it stop. >> reporter: accounts like these from gay men in chechnya have only slowly emernld in lly emer view thanks in large part to the russian newspaper "novay "novaya gazeta," one of the last independent papers left here. >> honor. >> they broke the story back in april. >> the first, the men were beaten, they were tortured. they were electrocuted. >> reporter: irina gordyenko who covers chechnya for the paper believes at least 200 men have been rounded up, held and tortured and that some of those men have even perished. so you know of three men specifically who have died, who've been killed but you think there are many more? >> yes. unfortunately yes.
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>> reporter: but an accurate accounting is hard to come by in chechnya where there's little accountability, even less free press, and a long history of extrajudicial killing. >> as you say, they operate with impunity. the chechen authorities can get away literally with murder. >> yeah. >> reporter: chechnya's now under the rule of ramzan kadyrov, a one-time separatist militia leader. kadyrov became a moscow loyalist during the second chechen war and he's ruled the region with an iron fist for more than a decade. >> the strategy which kremlin chose is to put a strong man in charge of it. now, that comes with a price, and the price is to overlook virtually anything that he wants to do in that territory. >> reporter: kadyrov is a leader filled with bravado and bluster. he regularly stars in his own social media videos. they're a glimpse into the personality cult he's built, one based on masculinity, power, and devout muslim observance. in an interview with hbo real
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sports, his first interview with western media in years, kadyrov flat out denied the very existence of gays in his country. >> do you not get concerned when you read these accounts of young men who say they've been tortured for days? does it concern you as a matter of law and order? >> reporter: he even suggested that if chechen families took matters into their own hands authorities would look the other way. >> reporter: according to dennis krovosheov at amnesty international, he has stoked
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prejudice in the traditionalist society to enlist people in persecution. >> families are expected to kill their own relatives if they have been publicly named gay. it seems the authorities behind this campaign have staged it in a way that they didn't have to deal with anyone directly. >> reporter: since the story broke, there has been international condemnation. >> the united states and other responsible nations should do more to make sure that all people are protected. >> australia does everything it can to apply pressure on chechnya and russia to end this appalling persecution. >> reporter: kadyrov was summoned to moscow and denied there was any purge during a meeting with vladimir putin, who ordered an investigation which has since been halted. despite all of this danil and dimitri both say they were torn between protecting themselves and leaving their families behind. dimitri, who is married and has two children, has not even told his wife where he is. >> translator: she thinks i'm in russia working. just left for work. that i took a job on a construction site somewhere. no one knows where i am. >> reporter: both men now in hiding are being given refuge by
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the lgbt network. the russian non-profit has already helped scores of people. but even having reached the relative safety of this house in moscow, danil and dimitri feel they're still in a kind of purgatory and there's little hope of leaving these borders. organizers say just 27 of the 120 people who've sought their help have made it out of russia. >> do you think you can go back to chechnya now? >> translator: no. i will never go back. >> reporter: for both of these men there's no good option. they've lost so much. their families, their homes, their country. >> translator: i want to live as normal people do. work, pay taxes, live as i used to live. i don't want to hide. i did not do any harm to anybody. i did not rape anyone.
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>> do you feel that you have lost your family? >> translator: i want to hope that i have not. i don't know. i understand there's no way back for me. >> what will you do now? >> translator: i don't know. as long as i am here, i have no clue what tomorrow brings me. >> reporter: for "nightline" i'm terry moran in moscow. up mention, the parole hearing of the century. o.j. simpson with a chance to go free after nine years behind bars. music playing ] you've wished upon it all year, and now it's finally here. the mercedes-benz summer event is back, with incredible offers on the mercedes-benz you've always longed for. but hurry, these shooting stars fly by fast. lease the c300 for $399 a month at your local mercedes-benz dealer. mercedes-benz. the best or nothing. the unpredictability of a flaree may weigh on your mind.
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for decades now, o.j. simpson has stood at the incendiary nexus of race, class,
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celebrity and criminal justice. and tomorrow he walks back into the spotlight as a parole board in nevada decides whether to set him free. tonight we hear from one person who once held simpson's fate in his hands, a juror in his murder trial. here's my "nightline" co-anchor dan harris. >> reporter: o.j. simpson has been here in lovelock prison since 2008, after he was found guilty in a botched robbery attempt to steal back his memorabilia. >> guilty. >> reporter: in a sense we've been here before. >> find the defendant orenthal james simpson not guilty of the crime of murder. >> reporter: simpson acquitted after the trial of the century in which he was accused of the double murder of his ex-wife nicole brown simpson and her friend, ron goldman. >> you had to have been there and lived what we lived to understand. >> now a four-part series, "the jury speaks," airing on oxygen is asking jurors to recast their votes given what they know now. >> it's not what we want. it's what the law is.
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>> reporter: lon cryer was juror number 247 during the people versus o.j. simpson. >> if you had to cast a vote about his guilt or innocence, how would you vote? >> i'm probably pretty sure that he probably is the person that went over there and killed nicole brown simpson and ron goldman. >> are there other things over the years that have changed your view? >> he had decided to come out and do this fictitious book "if i did it." it became apparent to me in my mind that he was probably the person that went over there and killed those people. >> but he said he ultimately stands by that not guilty verdict. >> it wasn't based on whether i thought he did or didn't do it. it was based on the presumption that was presented to me by judge ito in the trial of reasonable doubt. >> reporter: cryer is perhaps best known for this moment following the verdict, portrayed here in the fx series "the people versus o.j. simpson."
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>> i put my hand up like this. and of course it was only to say to mr. simpson -- actually it was to him. to say hey, man, enjoy your life. go back and be a real person again. because really and truthfully this was a blessing to you, that we gave you here. >> why did you feel strongly enough to do that? >> because i wanted to try to let him know how i felt about it really, about him and about the fact that he had been acquitted here. >> looking back, do you think race played a role in the verdict? >> i don't think so at all. i think a lot of people thought we were predisposed to decisions beforehand. i personally wasn't, and i feel that none of the other jurors on the case were personally disposed to come up with a verdict other than what they would have come up with as the evidence was presented to us in trial. >> i'm not sure that race had any impact on the verdict. i think the stress on the jury had much more impact. >> reporter: nancy glass is the series executive producer. >> why do you think we're still
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talking about this tas so many years after the fact? >> i think because it's an unsolved mystery. it involves money, celebrity, sex, murder. >> reporter: full of a cast of characters, the simpson trial quickly became must-see tv. >> as the trial progressed, what were the big moments that impacted your opinion about his guilt or innocence? >> the infamous glove experiment of course which i feel backfired on the prosecution. >> so when you saw the way he put that glove on, that to you screamed out as a piece of evidence that oh, well, maybe he didn't do this? >> well, it screamed out to me that obviously those gloves don't fit him, which means that maybe he wasn't the perpetrator of the crimes. >> if it doesn't fit you must acquit. >> but wasn't he wearing rubber gloves underneath? >> yes. yes. >> so wouldn't that change the way the glove fit? >> i would have thought so also. but you have to remember that the prosecution allowed that to happen. >> reporter: that experiment is
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something marcia clark, lead prosecutor in the trial, says she tried to stop from ever happening. >> i didn't want to do it. i mean, i knew it was a mistake, and i objected. i said the latex is going to screw up the fit, they've schrunk. i was on the record. >> reporter: throughout the course of the trial the jurors were sequestered in a hotel. >> there were times where it really did feel like you were in jail. it wasn't fun at all. >> reporter: but after 253 days of trial and hearing testimony from 156 witnesses, the case was finally given over to the jury to deliberate. >> back then i might release a person that was guilty. it bothered me. but the doubt was so plain that you couldn't deny it. there was no other verdict that we could deliver. >> i had been sequestered for 10 1/2 months. i had no control over anything. when we were at the point of deliberation, at this point we as the jury have control of how long, how much longer we're going to be here. >> reporter: after fewer than four hours of deliberation the
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jury reached a vertical. >> -- not guilty of the crime of murder. >> reporter: cryer says his first days of freedom were mired in fear. >> i had people camp out at my home in los angeles all the time, and i had people would show up at my house and leave threatening remarks. >> reporter: for simpson life after the not guilty verdict was also not as he may have imagined. in 2008, after a baffling attempt to steal back his memorabilia, he was found guilty of robbery and kidnapping. >> guilty. >> reporter: and sentenced to that 9 to 33-year term in prison. >> to go to nevada and decide you were going to just take it upon yourself to go and take back your memorabilia, i just thought the whole concept of it was pretty stupid. >> reporter: tomorrow after his parole hearing simpson could be a free man again. as for lon cryer his name will forever be linked with o.j. simpson. for "nightline" this is dan harris in new york. >> and abc news will have live coverage of the parole hearing starting at 1:00 p.m. eastern
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we leave with you the outpouring of support for senator john mccain after his brain tumor diagnosis. former vice president joe biden, who lost his own son beau to brain cancer tweeted tonight, "john and i have been friends for 40 years. he's gotten through so much difficulty with so much grace. he is strong and he will beat this." turn to and our "nightline" facebook page for more. thanks for watching abc news. good night, america.
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